Silence Fills The Void


It’s awfully peaceful outside. You must have noticed? Since Monday there’ve been no bellowing workmen, no reversing delivery lorries, no aeroplanes, no taxis using our lane as a rat run, no catterwauling teenagers on a night out, no gabbling foreign language students, no empty cages being hauled out the back of shops, no trains pulling up at the station and no police sirens. It’s been beautifully, soothingly, achingly silent. Or has it?

Living in the town one becomes conditioned to constant, ugly, unloved noise. Even on the station platform at 5.50am in the morning, as I close my eyes and practice five minutes of meditation, my ears are invaded by the harsh sound of traffic, bottle banks being emptied and shutters rattling open. The pure, shimmering sound of the dawn chorus is polluted by sharp, metallic grinding and simulated trilling. There is no harmony, only dischord. More often than not I stop trying to meditate long before the distant ‘chaulk chaulk’ of my approaching train reverberates along the track.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) against a flint wall

I know a lot of people feel deeply uncomfortable and constrained by the current limitations on our daily lives. That is perfectly understandable. It’s so far from normal as to be shocking, and I think many of us are in some state of shock at this moment. Personally I am loving it. And what’s more, on my daily walk to the allotment or along the beach for exercise, I can see that the natural world is a better place for these draconian measures. The skies are clear, I can hear every note the birds are singing, there is no rubbish on the beach, beer bottles aren’t crushed on the road or deposited in gardens and people talk to one another kindly, from a safe distance of course.

A quiet moment on the allotment this week

I get a sense that birds in particular are fast reclaiming the skies, gardens and hedges as human disturbance dwindles. I daresay it will be the same for mammals and insects too. Think how many fewer badgers, foxes and deer will be crushed on our roads, how much more vigorous spring growth might be without pollution in the air and how much less rubbish will get washed into our seas.

As I walk around Broadstairs I wonder if this level of quiet is what our ancestors would have experienced before the car and aeroplane became commonplace. As I write this post I can hear nothing other than my wooden sash window frames expanding in the warmth of the day, doves cooing outside and one of our dogs snoring as it dozes in a sunny patch on the carpet. It’s not eerie at all, it’s decadent. Decadent because I know it won’t last. When we are freed from incarceration my fear is that we’ll go immediately back to our old ways. The space now filled with bees buzzing, doves cooing, leaves rustling and waves lapping will once again be drowned out by clanking, roaring, screaming and bleeping. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if I was wrong, that we used our cars only when necessary, created less rubbish, kept our voices down and let silence fill the void instead? TFG.

Yellow buoy on Stone Bay